As Hurricane Florence recently reminded us once again, you never know when disaster will strike, changing your life, and potentially destroying your home. That’s why people get homeowners insurance—to be prepared for disasters big and small (and because some mortgage lenders require it).
But buying an insurance policy is just the beginning of protecting yourself and your possessions from fire, floor, theft, and more. Do yourself a favor: When you get home tonight, take photos of all your expensive belongings to create a home inventory.
You’ve probably heard of this advice before, and it may seem unlikely that a simple photograph would be much help in recouping your losses. But when your belongings have been stolen or damaged beyond recognition, this is a great tool to help you make your insurance claim.
“A home inventory is an excellent way to expedite the insurance claims process after a theft, damage, or loss,” says Michal Brower, spokesperson for State Farm Insurance. “This record of your insurable assets will not only help you in the settlement of a covered loss or claim, but may also help verify tax-deductible property losses and determine the right amount of insurance coverage you need.”
Joe Dittmar, program manager at Swyfft, agrees: “Swyfft and most homeowners [insurance] carriers do always suggest that insureds document their items of value in some fashion.” That could mean a photo journal, a video walkthrough, an itemized list or confirmed independent appraisals—or a combination of all four. He adds: “It’s always highly recommended to keep the original sales receipts somewhere as well.”
It’s recommended to document everything of value that you own, so, if you’re not sure whether or not to include something, just do so—it’s better to be safe than sorry. Valuables can be anything, from jewelry to statuary to silverware. “Heck, baseball cards can be considered valuable, right?” Dittmar says
And don’t forget to document items in your basement, attic, garage, and any detached structures (like sheds), too, Brower says.
Photos provide evidence not only that you truly owned the items in your claim but convey the condition and details of said items, Dittmar says. This will better help your insurance company determine their value worthiness.
Brower notes that, if you’re creating an inventory list, be sure to include the item description (including the make, model, and serial number, if applicable), value and purchase date. You can create your own list using a spreadsheet or fill out a pre-made home inventory checklist, she says. Remember to update this list—and your photo inventory—over time as you accumulate more stuff.
Finally, keep in mind that your home inventory won’t do you any good if it’s destroyed along with all your other possessions. “Whichever inventory method you choose, it’s important to keep a copy in a safety deposit box at a bank or another secure location away from your home,” Brower says. Storing a digital version on the Cloud is a perfectly acceptable method as well.